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New solar project in Clays Mill goes public

SoVaNow.com / January 15, 2018
Two dozen Clays Mill area landowners and residents met at Ernie’s Restaurant Thursday night for a chance to ask questions and voice concerns at a community meeting organized by Carolina Solar Energy.

Carolina Solar Energy has submitted a permit application to Halifax County for approval to build a 50-megawatt, 340-acre photovoltaic solar farm known as Sunnybrook Farm off Long Branch Lane outside Scottsburg.

Gerry Dudzik, chief operating officer for Carolina Solar, said, “Sunnybrook solar farm will use 226,000 solar panels arranged in arrays, and will produce an estimated 102 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year — enough to power approximately 8,500 average [1400 sq. ft.] Virginia homes.”

Project manager Christopher Jones explained photovoltaic technology, from the creation of the solar panels to the transmission of the electrical energy to the transformer. According to Carolina Solar’s web site, the solar models are made of crystalline silicon. The crystals are “grown” from a solution made of pure molten sand. One of the world’s purest silicone mines is in western North Carolina near Asheville.

Dudzik added that the panels do not contain heavy metals or anything else that could leach into the ground. He added that the panels are warranted for 25 years, although they could last for 40 years.

Carolina Solar plans to hire between 300-350 local construction workers, and contract with local electricians for the 8-10 months it will take to build the solar farm.

The completed solar facility will have a six-foot security fence with three strands of barbed wire surrounding the farm. The solar farm is self-monitoring, sampling itself every 15 seconds to ensure the system is functioning properly. If a problem is detected, the system will send an alarm to a local electrical contractor who will respond.

According to Dudzik, Carolina Solar has recently started the application phase with Halifax County and hope that public hearings by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will be scheduled in March.

Rich Kirkland, a licensed real estate appraiser, conducted an impact study to determine the consequences of a solar farm adjacent to residential properties. He concluded that a solar farm has no influence on adjacent property values either up or down.

County Administrator Jim Halasz asked the only question of the evening. He wanted to know why, instead of decommissioning, Carolina Solar would not put new panels up and continue to use the system.

Dudzik explained, “When you keep upgrading a solar farm for continued use, it is called ‘re-powering.’” He added that, “Because a dedicated substation costs between $3-8 million, it makes sense to replace panels with new technology.”

Durham-based Carolina Solar built the first utility-scale solar grid farm in the Southeast when they collaborated with North Carolina State University in 2007. In total, they have six solar farms developed and owned, another 15 projects developed, and five projects in development.



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That sounds great, just one question, what about the batteries associated with solar energy, where are the batteries going to be stored, at the panel site or at the customer's premises, the energy produced has to be stored somewhere, and the batteries used so far are acidic like automotive batteries, has that scenario been addressed, and who much is going to be the homeowners responsibility?


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